For Disclaimer, please see Chapter 1.
Misplaced People by Devize © 2004 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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Chapter 10: Attercop[i]
The men moved down the alley like a tidal wave. Striker found herself forced against the wall; pinned, much as she had been that morning. There were flashes of metal in the surge as if silent guns were already blazing. But it was more than that, other metal forms swung against legs, peeked from under coats. Under the smell of sweat and cigarettes, she could smell gasoline.
It was the blond who gave the orders. "Go inside, find the owners. You know what to do." He turned his attention to Paully who was standing in the Booms entrance like an unarmed David in front of the entire Philistine army. "Wheres your big black friend?" Paully said nothing. He stood foursquare in the doorway, challenging anyone to make him move. "Look, arsehole, you aint got much choice here ."
"Paully, do as he says, theyre packing," Striker cried out before a big, thick hand was slammed over her mouth. Paully didnt move.
"Christ, someone do something with this shortarse git. Just get rid of him if hes going to make trouble."
Two skinheads hauled Paully out of the doorway, dragging him, kicking and yelling, down the alley and out into the street. The other acolytes swarmed into the interior to find victims among the unsuspecting dancers.
The blond man turned round and came to stand in front of Striker. "Fancy meeting you here," he said. "I believe my brothers got something to say to you."
The bearded mans huge fist crashed into Strikers stomach. She doubled-over, tears blurring her eyes, then gravity pulled her onto all fours. But she didnt have a moment to breath. The blond man grabbed her hair and pulled her head back sharply.
"Lets make this civilised shall we? Start off with some introductions? My name is Nigel. This is my brother, Bruce."
Nigel and Bruce? Since when were gangsters called Nigel and ?
"Dont even think about it," he continued. "Now, we know youre a friend of the Welsh dyke, but we havent caught your name."
Striker bit her bottom lip, tried to struggle free, but the more she struggled the tighter his grip became on her hair.
"Dont be fucking stupid. Whats your name?"
"Striker ," she said through gritted teeth. He pulled her head back again and put a hand on her throat. "Striker West."
Nigel looked at her, amusement on his pink face. "Striker? Shit, didnt your parents like you or something?" Strikers eyes widened and she tried to move her legs but they seemed frozen beneath her.
Then the music radiating from the Boom Shack suddenly silenced. Striker could hear the sound of screams inside, then a gunshot. Jesus, please let Danny be safe. Please let him be safe. Nigel didnt blink.
She was frightened and Nigel could see that. He could see fear oozing out of every pore. He smiled. "Now, Striker, my brother told me what you did to him." He was close now, his voice hissing in her ear. "And you hurt my brother, you hurt me, you understand?"
He pulled her hair again, and Striker nodded.
Nigel sat back on his heels, but keeping a tight grip on her scalp. "Now, me and my brother, we dont have a prejudiced bone between us. I mean, blacks, yids, queers not a problem. You show me a queer, black Jew and Ill shake im by the hand, yeah?"
Striker wasnt sure if she was supposed to respond. She was tempted to garner the bile that was pooling in her mouth and spit it into the bastards nasty, pink face, but instead she simply glared at him.
"But, dykes," he continued, "I dont get em, you know? Makes me want to give em a taste of what theyre missing, if you know what I mean."
"But, I ."
"Dont interrupt." His voice was calm, but he tugged Strikers hair back so hard her head crashed against the wall. What the hell was it with these two and walls? Since when was brickwork an offensive weapon?
"Now, were reasonable guys, really. We dont hurt people just for the hell of it. But you and your taff bint, youve been pissing us off. Youve been pissing my family off. Its been fucking hard trying to stop my uncle from paying a visit to your little girlfriend, and hes not nearly as nice as us. But, you just wont be told, will you?"
He paused. His grip tightened on her hair. Then loosened again. He almost let go.
"But, like I said, were reasonable guys. Now, while we were down the doctors, me and Bruce had a think about what would be the best thing to do with you, Striker, and weve decided to teach you a little lesson, and leave you a little gift that I hope will remind you of that lesson. Its very simple. All you have to do is remember to keep your nose out of our business. Do you understand?"
"And you will explain this to that pretty little girlfriend of yours, wont you? Because, and keep this in mind, bitch, we know where she lives."
"You bastard ." Striker struggled in his grip, suddenly terrified for Morien.
"Oi," he replied. "I warned you ." And everything went black.
* * * * *
It took Striker a while to recognise her surroundings when she finally opened her eyes. And when she did recognise them, it took a moment to believe it.
She was only round the corner from The Boom Shack. It was a little passageway shed passed a hundred times and barely glanced at, only a couple of stores away from the Booms alley.
The night sky seemed to be flashing with colours: blues and reds. She could smell rotting vegetables and smoke. The air stank of smoke and it clawed at her throat.
She sat slumped against the wall, one side resting on an trashcan overflowing with restaurant debris. Her entire body ached. Especially her stomach. Especially her head. She took the time to check herself: and despite the aching there didnt seem to be anything broken, only bruised. The pain, she guessed, was simply a result of the treatment shed received while conscious. Then she had a thought that made her nauseous. A taste of what theyre missing .
She moved a shaking hand down over her body, allowing it to rest above her pelvis, then down. Her jeans were fastened. There was no specific soreness, no indication that theyd . Thank fuck. She let out a shaky breath, then rose unsteadily to her feet, groaning as each muscle protested.
She still wore her leather jacket. She could feel her wallet in her jeans pocket, pressing against her thigh. She reassured herself that her house keys were jingling in the jackets inner pocket. She could feel the outline of her cigarette packet through the lining, her lighter nestling beside it. She wondered whether to light one, but her throat felt raw and even the call of nicotine would have to wait for its answer until shed had a drink of something cold. She glanced at her watch, still on her wrist. 11.40 p.m.?! Shed been out that long? Jesus, what had they done to her...?
She ran her fingers through her dishevelled hair and winced and swore under her breath as they brushed a lump the size of an egg on the back of her head.
Other than that, there was nothing nothing that seemed different. She didnt understand, but decided not to brood over her good luck and having got away with a relatively light beating, and stumbled out of the passageway into the main street.
There were police cars parked opposite the Boom Shack alley, a couple of ambulances, and behind them looming fire engines. Dazed and dishevelled clubbers were standing in small groups on the pavement. Firefighters were rolling up hoses, packing up. Ambulance crewmembers were providing blankets and oxygen. The police punctuated the scene, talking to witnesses, consulting with each other. She held back, staying in the shadows, worried about being seen talking to the cops. She thought of Morien and the threat the brothers had made.
Now, more than ever, she felt like Moriens protector, Moriens knight she held Moriens wellbeing in her hands and she could only shelter her by being silent.
At least Morien had missed this. At least, by some miracle, they hadnt known she was here.
Here and there on the street would be a face Striker recognised - Viv the barman; Diane, latched on to some naïve young man. But no Danny. Her heart lurched. And then she saw the unmistakable figure of Thomas lingering as close to the alley as he could, then turn and begin to walk in her direction.
"Thomas!" she called as loudly as she dared.
His head snapped round and his eyes widened as he saw Striker. He hurried over and wrapped her in a bear hug. "Sis ," he said, "Oh sis ." And Striker felt a sob riding through his big body.
"What happened, Thomas, what happened?" she whispered into his ear.
He pulled free of her, keeping his hands on her shoulders. "They took over the club, sis. Bad men threatened them with guns. Took Ray and Fabio. Rays in hospital now. Then they heard the feds coming and the doghearts got out. But they poured gas all over, and set fire to it. I think we got everyone out, theyre searching for for anybody left, but the Booms gone, sis. The Boom Shacks gone."
"Thomas ." She couldnt say anything more for a moment, her throat working round the sorrow and disgust that was choking her. "Who called the cops?" Her mind perched on the question, almost as a way of avoiding her other concern.
"I called them, sis," he sighed. Striker had never seen him so tired. "I came back from seeing your lady off ."
"She was sick, sis, but shed gone before they came. I saw them go in. I heard them threatening you. I saw them take Lil Paully, I saw them take you, I tried to get into the club, but they had guns . They were spreading petrol everywhere, Strike. There was nothing I could do... so I went for the nearest phone and called the feds."
"Thomas, did Danny get out?"
"Yeah, he did. I saw him not long ago with one of his catties. Hes gone to take care of her, I guess." He gave a little smile that didnt reach his eyes. "But the doghearts took you. Are you okay, Strike?"
"Im fine. I think. They knocked me out, thats all."
"And Paully, sis. Have you seen Paully?"
* * * * *
The anxiety in Thomass eyes haunted Striker as she walked away from what was left of the Boom. She had only been able to hold him, reassure him that Paully was doubtless fine. "Hes probably smoking ganja somewhere totally unaware of what day it is, let alone whats happened here. Hell be okay."
He had to be. For Thomass sake.
So Striker left thinking of Thomas, thinking of his concern for his best friend, and thinking of his kindness towards Morien. She thought of Danny and how relieved she had been of his safety. She thought of the Boom and the sick emptiness she felt now that it was gone. And she knew that she had to check on Morien: to ensure that the brothers hadnt gone after her after their business at the Boom Shack was interrupted. Ensure that Morien wasnt ill, or upset. Ensure that she hadnt destroyed their blossoming friendship with one stupid revelation.
She thought I was straight.
Had she hoped I was straight?
Surely that means she only wants friendship?
She made her way to the nearest bus stop, determined to catch the first night bus heading east. The air was heavy with humidity and the scent of smoke, and she sped up as she felt the first few fat drops of rain, seeking cover under the bus shelter.
There would be some wait until the next bus, so she made herself as comfortable as possible on the hard plastic seat, curling her long legs under her to avoid the developing downpour.
Wests Law of Bus Shelters: wherever youre sheltering, the prevailing rain and wind will always be coming straight at you.
She was half asleep when they roused her: her thoughts lurching in exhausted, whirling dances lead by Morien and Thomas and cold-faced men and guns. This time yesterday, she thought, this time yesterday .
Her head jerked up at the touch on her shoulder and her eyes widened at the sight of two policemen staring down at her.
"Are you all right, miss?"
Striker sat up, pulling a jacket more firmly around her. "Yeah, Im good. I was just waiting for the next bus."
"Its not a good area to be in this area alone, miss, you know that, dont you?"
"Im cool, really. I know this area pretty well."
The questioning officer paused, then asked. "Do you know the Boom Shack?"
"The Boom Shack?"
"Yes, the club off the High Street. Do you know about the incident there this evening?"
She couldnt get involved. She really couldnt get involved. For Moriens sake. "Sorry. Ive heard of the club, but Ive never been there."
There was another pause and Striker hoped her lie had been convincing. But the next question assured her that it hadnt.
"Is your name Striker West?"
Striker shifted back in her seat, suddenly feeling threatened. There was no escape from this. She was backed into the corner of the bus shelter with the two policeman in front of her; their marked car parked on the street behind them.
"Whats this about?" she asked, her voice sounding sharp in the confined space.
"Miss West, Im Police Constable Dobbs from Clarke Street Police Station. This is Police Constable Walter. Weve had a call from a member of the public who witnessed a woman matching your description selling illegal substances in this area earlier this evening. Could you turn out your pockets please."
"It is within our power to stop and search you, Miss West. Could you turn out your pockets please."
Striker stood up, furious, causing the policemen to take a step back. "This is fucking ridiculous." She yanked her wallet from the pocket of her jeans, handing it to PC Walter, turning the pockets inside out. Then she ripped her jacket off and threw it at PC Dobbs. "You fucking check it if youre so convinced Ive got drugs."
PC Dobbs held her jacket carefully and searched the pockets in the inner lining. He brought out her apartment keys, which jangled on the end of his finger as he handed them to his colleague. He picked her lighter from the lucky dip, raising an eyebrow to his colleague at the miracle of flame. And then his hand went in for a third time.
And pulled out the cigarette packet. Striker knew that was all she had in her pockets. PC Dobbs opened the packet to glance at the contents and drew out a see-through plastic bag, half-filled with small, white, slightly chalky rocks.
Oh fuck .
Shed seen enough of it in her bad old days to know exactly what this was.
Lots of crack cocaine in easy, dealer-sized chunks.
PC Dobbss eyes widened in the dark of the bus shelter, and his gaze moved slowly from the plastic bag to Strikers own horrified stare.
His mouth started moving and Striker watched his lips form the words, not fully absorbing their meaning. "I am arresting you for possession and intent to supply an illegal substance," he said. "You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention, when questioned, something you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence. Do you understand?"
Striker nodded dumbly. What was the point in protesting?
She could only think of one thing: a little gift.
* * * * *
Striker tried to guess what time it was. About 5 a.m., maybe? Maybe later.
Theyd taken her watch. Her wallet. Her keys. Her jacket. She wondered if they were taking her sanity too.
She was sitting in a custody cell. Light was coming from a single, dim lamp embedded in the ceiling, and through a small, high-up window which threw the shadow of bars across the grimy white walls. But light had been changing for some time now. From electric to natural. The sun had risen.
There was a bed in the cell, narrow and hard, but she hadnt been able to sleep. The custody area had been busy all night: cries, screams, expletives in waves. The occupant of the next cell had been shouting curses and threats - on and off for hours. There had been a time when shes shouted back at him, but the sore throat shed given herself was in vain. She had sat with her knees up, her hands round her legs for what seemed like half the night. Exhaustion was turning her thoughts into a labyrinthine web full of dead ends of impossible images, voices and threats. She kept forgetting the questions they had fired at her, mis-remembering her replies.
"Where did you get the drugs from?"
"I didnt get the drugs. The first time I saw them was when that cop pulled them out of my jacket."
"So they miraculously appeared in your pocket?"
"I dont know how they got there. Could have been a miracle. God moves in mysterious ways, Im told." She was getting flippant, she knew. But this was becoming so unreal. She leaned forward on the table in the interview room. "Look, I guess they could have been slipped into my jacket at the Boom Shack."
"Oh, so you admit now, you were at the Boom Shack?"
"Yes, I was."
"Why did you say that youd never been there."
"I shouldnt have lied. I just didnt want to get involved."
"And you were there when the club was targeted?"
"I wasnt inside the club at that point."
"Where were you?"
"Outside, in the alley."
"So, you saw the men go in?"
She thought before she answered. "No, I think I must have just missed the excitement."
"Yet, you were still in the area over two hours after the attack?"
"What were you doing all that time?"
Striker tried to make herself more comfortable on the hard bed and struggled to think clearly. One thought was dominant in her mind, as it had been throughout her interview. If she told the police about Nigel and Bruce about their threats, about their gift - then the brothers would know shed talked, and Morien would be in danger.
So she had given an answer that she knew would condemn her. "I was just hanging out."
There was movement at the other side of the interview table, as if her questioners had just scored a little victory. The man sitting next to her, a sallow-faced solicitor whose name she kept forgetting, glared at her dolefully.
Then the web had revealed another, unexpected pattern. "I see from your record that youre being investigated by police up at Percival Hill for breaking and entering a property in...," he consulted his notes, "Easthouses Terrace?"
"Breaking and entering... oh, and vandalism at that address. Are you telling me you know nothing about it?"
"I... I know about it, but...." But she couldnt get Morien involved.
"I didnt do it."
The detective looked at her, long and hard. "I believe a Detective Sergeant Manifold wants to talk to you further on the subject." Stupid, fucking trenchcoated prick. She wished shed pushed him down the stairs when she had the chance. If shed had the chance.
And then a new question had come scuttling down the strand of conversation like a fat spider.
"Miss West, do you know Gilbert Lamprey?"
To Striker, this had come from leftfield. "Pardon me?"
"Gilbert Lamprey," the plain-clothed officer asked.
"Gilbert Lamprey? Ive never heard of him."
"Youve never heard of him?"
Both policemen watched her intently.
"So, who is he?" she said, after a moment.
"We wondered if you had come across him or any of his associates his family." For a tiny second, a spark of recognition must have ignited in Strikers eyes.
And they had seen it.
Striker sat in her cell with her head in her hands. Family. Nigel had mentioned his family, hadnt he? An uncle. It could be coincidence.
It just didnt feel like it.
The hatch in the cell door crashed open and Striker saw the tired eyes of the woman police sergeant who had been on duty all night. She had been friendly as friendly as she could be given the circumstances. She had been checking on her every hour or so, since the interview. She had fetched her a cup of water when Striker had requested it. She had even arranged for Striker to see the Medical Examiner when she had mentioned the bump to her head. She hadnt given the details, of course, despite the questions. Just an accident.
"What time is it?" Striker called to her.
"5.45," the sergeant called back. She was about to shut the hatch.
"Hey, did you manage to call my friend?"
"Sorry, no. Still no reply." Striker rubbed her forehead. Where the fuck was he? Thomas had reassured her that Danny was safe. So, why wasnt he home yet? The woman sergeant was still watching her through the hatch. "Is there anybody else I can call?"
Morien. Striker knew that she would come without hesitation, however upset she had been, she would come.
But Morien had been ill.
She was under threat.
Striker couldnt ask her to come.
But she was running out of options.
Of the people she knew, whom she was friends with was there anybody who wasnt associated with the Boom Shack, who could vouch for her, who could associate her with the world outside drugs and clubs?
But he was going to kill her.
Better that than languish in a holding cell. She had rarely needed to ring him, but shed always had a good memory for telephone numbers. The sergeant was still waiting. "Theres a colleague of mine," Striker said. "His names Kishen Mistry, hes a doctor at St Vincents. Could you phone him?"
i "Attercop" - one of the names invented by Bilbo Baggins to tease the giant spiders in The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Continued in Chapter 11...Return to the Academy